London, 1889. For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard's blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone's after it, including Ira's bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.
As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard's present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.
©2011 Jess Faraday (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
Faraday has written a brilliant Victorian mystery. The opening scene is a blackmail letter being cast down like a gauntlet: "I know what you are."
Ira Adler (echoes of Sherlock Holmes' Irene Adler) has found a comfy life as a kept man, that is, a "private secretary."
But when Ira and his lover are threatened with homosexual exposure, he must leave his life of comfort and head back to the seedy side of London. Asked to retrieve the "porcelain dog" of the title, he finds he is not the only one looking for it, at his peril. The careful plot is arranged like set of nesting boxes.
Victorian London comes alive through the eyes of a 19th century outlier.
I'm a lover of audiobooks. Even if I were able to physically read on the bus - I can't, it makes me feel ill - there's still something so incredibly wonderful about the spoken word, and the experience of listening to a great story being told. Usually, I do this to make the time pass by on the long trek to and from work, or when I'm doing something tedious like the laundry or dishes. For "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog" I was instead scurrying around, trying to find any excuse to be able to keep listening, and even wearing my ear-buds while I did routine stuff all the way to the moment I had to open the doors for the day.
I listened on my break. I listened on my lunch. I listened in the bath. I even got up early on the day of my closing shift so I'd have the two full hours of time I needed to finish the book before my work shift started.
In short? Jess Faraday's "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog" was the best audiobook experience I've had in years. There are a few sides to that experience.
One, the writing was so completely engaging that I was happily drawn into the narrative from step one. The setting - a Holmes-era tale in London at it's most coal-caked and financially stratified, "The Affair of the Porcelain Dog" is also Holmes-esque in its execution, pulling you into a mystery from the opening that is as steeped in the time and place and culture as it is in the richly drawn characters. The main voice, Ira Adler, is such a charming character even when he's being selfish or spoiled that I was smitten instantly. An orphan and former rent-boy, Ira is living in luxury now at the beck and call - and bed - of Cain Goddard, who despite his genteel appearance is in fact a crime lord making most of his living off the legal opium trade. Ira, no slouch in the street arts of lock picking, pick pocketing, and capable of thieving with the best of them, is tasked by Goddard to recover the titular piece of artwork, which is both ugly and apparently contains a secret that could ruin Goddard, and bring Ira's comfortable new life to an end. Of course, in a mystery as tightly drawn as this one, there are far more players than that - including the wonderfully written Timothy Lazarus, a giving clinic doctor who is after the same object d'art for his own friend - and Goddard's rival. That Lazarus and Adler have a romantic entanglement in the past just adds to the joy in their interactions.
Two, the performance. Oh how Philip Battley narrated the heck out of this book! He took Jess Faraday's amazing story and put such an incredible performance behind his reading. Every accent and every tone just burst with verisimilitude. It kills me that the search on his name over on audible only showed one other audiobook. I sincerely hope there's more from him.
Third - and last - there weren't compromises in the historical setting including gay characters. I rarely read historical gay fiction because so often the gay stuff sort of slides unnoticed among the rest of the tale. Somehow everyone the characters meet are happy and open-minded folks who understand these guys aren't evil (despite religion, law, and everything about the current culture saying they are). That these men are gay is a huge factor to the story, but not in a way that doesn't ring true.
Okay. I'm moving past reviewing and into gushing. Just trust me on this one. Read it or listen to it - I'm totally going to suggest you listen to it if you're at all an audiobook lover - and rejoice in the fact that there's a sequel, Turnbull House, on its way.
I read a lot of gay mystery type books and I must say this one is one of the best! The story is believable and has action, suspense, and mystery. Jess develops the characters, giving them a history, an emotional life, and believable personalities. The narrator is excellent. I can't wait for the next book by Jess!
I found this book too demanding of my suspension of disbelief. To sum it up, and this happens within the first hour of the book, so I don't think it is a spoiler ... and you could see it coming from a mile off ... a (early 20s) boy who grew up on the streets has his pocket picked then doesn't notice the loss of considerable weight as he runs back home, several miles. Just silly; and an alternative to the plot twist was so obviously available.
That sums it up ... too obvious, too contrived - thrust on top of a "topical" story of the rent boy and the crime lord (again, not spoilers as they are stated from the get go).
It may read better than it narrates. The fist person perspective is always a difficult one to pull off and for my money, Jess Faraday or Philip Battley doesn't achieve it; maybe it's the combination. Though Battley has a good voice for narration.
The characters weren't unlikeable, but neither did they imbue me with a need to stick around for their story. I dropped in to the tale a few hours in just to see if it got itself organized, but the problems were the same.
Maybe the author relies on the setting, which is well drawn, to carry the story aloft, but it never got the momentum for me.
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